February 15, 2011
Continuing the blogging history of Florida and following my first nights blog as a bit of an outline, tonight I’m writing about Key West!
Every year millions of people make their way to the beautiful chain of islands at the southern tip of Florida thats simply referred to as the Keys. From Key Largo to Key West, the 106 mile island chain is littered with historical moments, pirates, treasures gained and lost, stories and songs inspired and written, and lives and lifestyles changed forever.
Ponce de León may have discovered the islands as far as the western explorers were concerned, but these islands were already inhabited by a local tribe, the Calusa’s. Though efforts to establish a farming colony further north in the area of Mound Key had failed, a fishing and salvage village as established with a Garrison on the island of Cayo Hueso, or Key West as we know it now. The island changed national ownership several times from Spain to Great Britain, back to Spain 2o years later, however no true defacto control or governance was ever established.
In 1815 the Spanish governor of Cuba deeded the island to Juan Pablo Salas, a Royal Spanish Navy Artillery officer posted at St Augustine, la Florida! When Florida was transferred to the United States the eager owner of this island sold it twice! Once for a sloop valued at about $575, the other to a US businessman in a Havana cafe for approximately $2000 in pesos. On March 25, 1822 the schooner Shark was Matthew C. Perry sailed to Key West, planted the U.S. Flag and physically claimed the Keys as U.S. Property. It was subsequently noted that there was acts of piracy occurring in the Caribbean as well. Surprise!
The island was renamed to Thompsons Island, the harbor called Port Rogers, and in 1823 Commodore David Porter took control with the United States Navy West-Indies Anti-Pirate Squadron ruling with Martial Law. Piracy cleared up mostly, the names however…. well, you see how that worked out!
Most of Key Wests residents were immigrants from the Bahama’s. They were mostly the sons and daughters of Loyalists who fled to the nearest ‘Crown’ soil after the American revolution and were simply referred to as Conchs (konks, not konsh as some people mispronounce it as). The term has been revived in the 20th century to identify people born in Key West (saltwater conch) or migrated there and lived greater than 7 years (freshwater conch).
By 1860 there were a number of major production businesses in operation in Key West – fishing, salt production and salvage. Salvage was such a lucrative business that it actually helped propel Key West to the status of one of the wealthiest towns, per capita, in the US.
In 1912, Henry M. Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway connected Key West to the mainland with the Overseas Railway for the first time since western inhabitants started calling it home. After it was partially destroyed in the hurricane of 1935, the US Government rebuilt it as an automobile highway, completing in 1938, as an extension of US1.
Some notable names of people who called Key West home are Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Aside from the 6 or 7 toed cats which still inhabit the house that Hemingway lived in, there is still a penny in the concrete of the pool he had installed.. its said that as he shoved the penny into the wet concrete he proclaimed “Here! Take the last penny I’ve got!”
In 1982, Key West briefly declared independence from the United States in protest over a boarder patrol blockade, and called itself The Conch Republic.
While tourism is more the norm for income among the islands, one thing still remains.. the salvage for the lost gold, silver, and gems lost aboard the many vessels which did not successfully pass by is still sought by many.. found by few.. and the stuff that dreams and legends are made of!
Colin Bulla is a Certified Life Coach and Professional Network Marketer. Call 239-878-2328 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview to receive coaching or to work with his amazing networking team of sharp men and women changing their financial stars!